Futures and Innovation – Parents’ Feedback Event


Thank you to everyone who came along to the Futures and Innovation Feedback Event. For those of you who were unable to attend, please find a copy of the presentation that was given here, and an overview of the meeting below.

The Aim

The aim of the Futures and Innovation project is to test how we can better prepare students for the fast changing world post Bedales – in terms of the curriculum we teach and the soft skills that students learn.   Bedales is a progressive school and is already way ahead of most others in terms of our approach to education, the skills we teach the students and the Bedales Assessed Courses we offer in place of GCSEs in many subjects.   However, the speed of change in the workplace and beyond is such that no one can afford to be complacent and, over ten years since the introduction of Bedales Assessed Courses, we are keen to continue to test our educational offer and improve on it.

The Process

Last summer term we held a programme of events, a film, workshops and meetings with parents, Old Bedalians, staff, students, employers, entrepreneurs and thought-leaders in the world of education.   We asked them what skills they were looking for in young people entering the workplace and where they felt education as a whole was trailing behind in terms of the skills, mind-set and approach that is needed to flourish in the workplace and in life in general.

The process brought together a rich and varied group of individuals whose insights were invaluable.   Four key themes of consensus had clearly emerged by the end of the summer term.   These themes were:

  • Curriculum and Lifelong Learning (further exploration of non-GCSE options; teaching core life skills; closer alignment to skills needed in workplace; more elective based learning and encouraging and supporting lifelong learning)
  • Wellbeing (helping students manage their own mental health; learning to deal with conflict and from failure; promoting self-awareness)
  • Beyond Bedales – broadening options for students (supporting and promoting entrepreneurial skills; possibility of a 7th term in the sixth form to help students make the leap between school and university or working life; structured mentorship from OBs, improved work experience opportunities)
  • Sustainability and the Environment (it was felt that a focus on sustainability and the environment should underpin all of the above areas and be a driving force throughout Bedales)

Progress to date

Curriculum – Al McConville, Director of Learning and Innovation fed back on progress in this area. 

There has been significant progress since the end of the summer term in this area, with colleagues from across the school working hard to develop a number of initiatives:

  • Increasing the range of Sixth Form level subjects on offer: new subjects include Music Technology, Sports Science, and Global Persepctives (Pre-U)
  • Developing our own Level 3 (A level equivalent) qualification around sustainability, called Living With the Land, which will focus on sustainable approaches to shelter, food production and craft. We are seeking formal accreditation from the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation for this so that it will have external validity, but will run it from  September 2020 in anticipation of accreditation.
  • We are taking a new approach in Block 3 from September 2020. In our research and discussion phase of the Futures and Innovation project, much was made of the importance of introducing more inter-disciplinary project-led work.  We are working on introducing projects that incorporate traditional subject disciplines into real-world, practical projects where outcomes have social impact and a public audience.
  • A change in emphasis in assessment. In the film, ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ which we showed to parents in the summer term, much was made of High Tech High’s emphasis in San Diego on work being assessed by presentation, exhibition and public performances.  As well as testing for relevant knowledge, we will broaden the ways in which student learning is celebrated. We are convinced that this approach is more motivating, engaging, and leads to more meaningful outcomes, as well as developing a greater breadth of skills.
  • Bedales continues to lead the way nationally in questioning the ongoing validity of GCSEs and in the summer term, we are co-leading an event with the Times Educational Supplement in which we will bring together educational experts from a variety of contexts to make the case for a broader understanding of learning and success. 

Beyond Bedales – broadening options for students – Rob Reynolds, Director of External Relations, fed back on progress in this area

  • An Advisory group of Bedales students, Old Bedalians, employers, parents, a careers consultant and Bedales colleagues has been established to take forward this work. The approach is to build on and strengthen our current programme of careers support and to research, develop and test a series of new initiatives.
  • The emerging model of experiential and reflective learning is based on inspiration, immersion and development of student skills for their futures in work and beyond (eg. entrepreneurial skills, personal finance).
  • A series of new Friday evening sector briefings with Old Bedalians, parents and other friends of Bedales have taken place. Bringing together a number of speakers to make a panel has been an effective way of engaging students in the wide range of possibilities within any one sector.  Sectors covered to date include Working in the Media, Business and Consulting, Development and the Not for Profit Sector and, next term, Art, Fashion and Design.

Other emerging initiatives:

  • Looking at how we can bring more real world problems/practical workplace challenges in to an enhanced curriculum, mobilising the goodwill of the school’s network of parents and Old Bedalians
  • Reviewing current careers provision against the eight Gatsby benchmarks of excellent careers practice.
  • Trialling professional careers coaching for a group of 6.2 leavers whilst they are still at school and in the months following their departure
  • Exploring the idea of offering leavers a structured voluntary experience in an ‘enrichment year’ before going to university/getting a job, together with mentorship.
  • Encouraging more Old Bedalians under 25 years to take a more active part in the alumni organisation so we can continue to build our collective knowledge about their courses and careers, and better meet their needs

Rob encouraged parents to get in touch if they would like to get involved in any of the above. Email: rreynolds@bedales.org.uk

Wellbeing – Rick Cross, Deputy Head Pastoral fed back on progress in this area.

Rick explained that promoting student wellbeing was part of Bedales’s DNA and core to everything we do at school: students cannot take advantage of all that is on offer as part of a Bedales education if they are not healthy and emotionally robust.

  • The way that the new school day will be structured is essentially all about wellbeing. As of September 2020 the school day will start later with lessons starting at 9.45am.   Throughout the day there will be time for students to relax, do something they enjoy, play sport or take exercise and the last school lesson will finish by 6pm.  In addition the new School calendar next academic year, with a longer half term in the Autumn Term and Long Leave weekends starting on Thursdays, is intended to promote student wellbeing, giving them more opportunities to recharge their batteries.
  • A dedicated Wellbeing and PHSE specialist is in post and teaching all year groups, covering many difficult and sensitive subjects that may have been glossed over in the past.
  • There have been a series of talks by outside speakers held ahead of Long Leaves – separate talks by the same speaker have been given to students and parents on the same day, allowing for meaningful conversations on the way home as parents can gauge their child’s reaction to topical issues raised.
  • A review of the Bedales counselling provision is underway and the possibility of engaging a dedicated mental health practitioner is being considered. As part of this Rak-tivators (Random Act of Kindness) pupils at Dunhurst have been established and at Bedales, Badley Seniors who act as peer to peer student counsellors will be found across all year groups as of next year rather than just the senior years.  

Sustainability – Magnus Bashaarat, Head of Bedales

Magnus reported back on the establishment of a Sustainability Group, which he chairs, with membership from across the school community including students, the Bursar, catering and facilities staff and teachers.   This group meets frequently, it considers how the school is responding to the climate emergency and is taking forward initiatives in a number of areas.

  • A great deal of time and effort is spent engaging with students on the issue, with many discussions at Assembly trying to embed an understanding of the climate emergency and how sustainability effects all we do at Bedales.
  • Paul Turner, Head of Geography, is one of the UK’s first United Nations-accredited climate change teachers and is creating teaching materials that are shared across the world and helping drive our work forward.
  • We are creating a Bedales strategy on Sustainability to incorporate all aspects of the school including energy, procurement and the curriculum. At the heart of this are plans to create

A new ground source heat pump system for Bedales providing the School with a cost effective, renewable energy source.

  • On a smaller scale, other initiatives include a new recycling system, a drive to eliminate single use plastics across the school, introducing recycled, reusable cups which are available to buy, created by an Old Bedalian, and reducing food waste.
  • There is a constant drive to reduce CO2 omissions: electric car charging points near the theatre will be available for parents to use in the near future.
  • Changing behaviour is a difficult process for everyone and students are not immune from this. This is however an ongoing process and one that is given the highest priority by the leadership team at Bedales.

Issues raised in the Question and Answer session:

  • Could we explore ways for Bedales to help parents who wish to car share and thereby reduce the number of cars coming to the school every day/for exeats?
  • A concern was raised about meat-free Monday and whether students are having enough food on these days.
  • The Old Bedalian magazine (link here) is impressive but needs to include the destinations of those students who choose not to go to university and go straight to work.